Today is the day I like to think of as my second birthday. It certainly has turned into it when I look at the celebrations going on in the past two years. My o my, I surprise myself sometimes by actually expecting something from others on this very special date. Be it a text message or a Facebook wall post or just a small reminder.
Today is the day I came to New York three years ago.
Some people don’t know when they entered this city. Some don’t feel it’s worth celebrating or making a big fuss out of. I, however, have always made a point in commemorating the experience. Perhaps because I felt it was only a temporary experience, me being here. Or that my time in the Big Apple should always be appreciated as something so special, that it can be over in an instant. Yes, even after 3 years life does not feel as stable as it would in other cities or other countries. It somehow still seems like I am at the very beginning of it all.
So what exactly does it feel like to be in New York for 3 years?
Simply put, it’s become your life.
One day you wake up and it feels like home. You are not bothered by the screeching sirens outside your door and wonder how you once thought this street was busy. You take a walk in the park and have gotten used to it being the only piece of nature you deem gold-worthy in this entire city. Everything that is outside of your home feels new but also frightening at times. You stay away from the bad parts of town because you just cannot deal with the social gap in this city anymore. Adventure trades itself with comfort. And being proud of knowing places that are good.
You come back from a vacation and the city is no unknown ghost to you anymore. It is more of a good friend who greets you and picks you up in a yellow cab to take you home where you can sleep off the jet-lag. People on the subway seem mildly distracting to you but then you get used to everything all over again. “What was the sense of leaving?” you wonder. “Nothing feels like it has changed!”
But it feels exciting, exhilarating, heartbreaking and monotonous – all at the same time. Just walking down 34th Street to work. The glamor people associate with this city… You cannot find it in the stinking streets of Chinatown. Or the piping lanes of Greenwich Village. You also cannot connect to all of those fake Hamptons people who swarm into this city on the weekends and take over home-made item sales in a church. Glamor is found in the simple things. Or when seeing an exotic dressed gay guy strutting down the streets of Chelsea.
You try out new things on a different level. Food has suddenly become appealing. While three years ago you were fine with home-made pasta and meager veggies, you now want to explore the finest gourmet spots in this town. At this point, you are able to afford them, too. And while two years back you were annoyed with not being able to show your visitors some good food spots, now you would have more than one chance to. Except for the fact that no one wants to visit you anymore. Or only rarely. Their lives have changed from yours so much that you cannot comprehend how your friendships developed before your new life.
You try to think how it was 3 years ago and you simply cannot imagine. The only people making you appreciate this city are the visiting friends (which rarely happens). And that woman at Duane Reade who is nice all of a sudden and lets you use her membership card to get a dollar off when you order those outrageously expensive chips
you never cared for in the first place. This has never happened, not one year back, not even two. You think: This only happens when you are here for three years.
But then New York also becomes different. Tiring, challenging, exhausting. It never quite loses its intensity. You want to make new friends but friends have always been hard to make in a city like this. Until one day you see the skyline again. Like a veil that lifts itself from your eyes, you can comprehend true beauty by just staring at these buildings from a distance. And all of a sudden it makes sense again. The struggle, the fury, the anger, the frustration, the tears.
This is what it feels like to be in New York for three years. You have to earn it.